NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’s Korner: …..And The Cheat Goes On

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In the early 2000’s, there was a cry for MLB to begin using replay to correct egregious or incorrect calls during games. “We have the technology, so why don’t we use it?” was being heard ‘round the sport. You wanted technology? You got it and all the other stuff that goes with it.

The demand for technology has led to a whole new wave of statistical data that is designed to offer a whole new way to help players and teams succeed. It has also led to a “Pandora’s Box” effect, if you will, as more devious, and deceitful, ways to “succeed” have been developed and could still be developing.

Replay was used for the first time in 2008. The Manager’s ability to challenge on-field calls debuted in 2014 as TV monitors took on a little more significance as they were supposed to aid the manager in making a decision to call for a replay.

Now that MLB has concluded their investigation of the Astros, (2018 Red Sox are still being investigated) the next thing to do is enact a new rule. Players should not be allowed access to any video source or any means of electronic communication, while the game is in progress. Do your homework before the game, not while the game is going on.

The tentacles from this scandal reach far and wide.

Three managers and one General Manager have been fired. Carlos Beltran was active at the time, so he is the only player who was directly involved and has been publicly named so far, but there are others, of course, and their names will be leaked to the public at some point.

There is a video circulating on social media where an implication has been made that Jose Altuve was carrying a buzzer under his shirt. The buzzer allegedly tipped him off as to what pitch was coming from Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, when he hit his walk off, series clinching HR last October. MLB concluded that a buzzer was not used as part of the Astros’ sign stealing system and I don’t buy that speculation, despite what it looks like on video.

Chapman fell victim to the ol’ adage, “Don’t get beat with your second best pitch.” The Yankee closer missed with a fastball and a slider (in that order) to fall behind 2-0. He threw an 85 MPH slider right over the middle of the plate for a called strike and then threw a third straight slider at 84 that Altuve did not need any buzzer alerts to put it in the seats and end the Yankees season. That one’s on Chapman, not the cheating scandal.

There are many calling for the players to be served some sort of punishment. MLB had the information but declined to issue any suspensions to the players as part of an immunity deal. Their punishment will come when they take the field for the 2020 season.

Spring training will be a media circus. The players are going to have to answer to the court of public opinion once they report and it will continue into the season. Imagine the venom and the ridicule that will be facing the Astros on the road.

What about when they come to the Bronx on September (21st-24th) to play the Yankees. That could get ugly.

There’s another player whose name has been prominently mentioned throughout and it’s A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, who literally “lit the fire” and had the guts to kick start MLB’s investigation. How is he going to be received by other players?

ESPN analyst and Mets advisor Jessica Mendoza got in some “hot water” with her comments about Fiers airing his gripes through the on-line publication, “The Athletic.” Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen had to respond to her comment by saying, “Jessica was speaking as an ESPN analyst, not as a spokesperson for the Mets.” Van Wagenen is partly to blame because he’s the one who hired her as an advisor, thus creating a “conflict of interest” because Mendoza was already working for ESPN.

There is also a misconception where some are associating legal “sign stealing” and gamesmanship with what the Astros were doing. Teams have “stolen” signs from the third base coach ever since a sign system was employed. How about when pitchers are tipping? No technology has been needed to prevent astute baseball people to spot when a pitcher gives away what he’s going to throw.

You shouldn’t try and “steal signs” from the opposing third base coach? Why not? He’s putting the signs out there, right in front of everyone, so it’s incumbent upon the opposition to try and figure out the info that’s being transmitted via those signs. It’s also incumbent upon the offensive team to make sure the opposition doesn’t “steal” their signs. When a pitcher is tipping, he’s inviting the opposition to take note of what pitch is coming. There is no artificial means to obtaining the knowledge of what pitch is about to be thrown. You use your eyes and baseball instincts.

What the Astros did was “steal signs” that were not supposed to be made public. That’s why the catcher puts down the signs in-between his legs. The pitcher (and a camera) can see them. When there is a runner on second, the signs are changed. Houston was getting wind of that via technological means, so there is no comparison to the “legal” way and gamesmanship of “stealing signs.”

Not to be cruel, but in the old days, players would police themselves and this scandal would not have blown up as it has. At a street naming ceremony in Port St. Lucie for Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, the former Mets catcher was asked about the cheating scandal. Piazza replied, “Could you imagine if Nolan Ryan knew that you were relaying signs. You’d probably be missing a head.”

As mentioned above, three managers lost their jobs including Beltran. The Mets not only need a replacement, they have competition from two other teams. With spring training less than a month away, a very unusual situation to say the least.

Van Wagenen had a little “egg” on his face when he indicated that, Beltran, during his interview, was never asked about his involvement in the Astros’ system. BVW cited that Beltran was hired before the Athletic’s report came out and that he had no knowledge of what was going on in Houston. Let’s hope he has spoken with newly acquired Jake Marisnick, who got a ring with the Astros in 2017.(J.D. Davis played only 24 games for the Astros in 2017)

I’m in agreement with those who say the Mets need a veteran manager to run the dugout during this tumultuous time, but I would not go back to Terry Collins. No offense to Collins. I just don’t think the Mets should go that route. Whether he wanted it or not, Collins was not Beltran’s bench coach.

If they did go back to a first time manager, I would name the current bench coach, Hensley Meulens. He’s multi-lingual and many around baseball believe Meulens has paid his dues by working under former Giants three time World Champion manager Bruce Bochy and is ready to be a Major League manager.

The Mets need to fill their the 2020 team and beyond? If I’m BVW, I’m conferring with the leaders (Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso) of the team to get their take on who they would like to see manage the club.

Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com


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